DeWine’s leadership role with key Appalachian group welcome news around Ohio

January 16, 2020

Just how important is the Appalachian Regional Commission?

There’s an old line that Andy Kuhn believes sums it all up: “A toilet doesn’t flush in rural America or rural Appalachia without ARC funds.”

That’s how critical the Commission is to infrastructure advancement, the executive director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority declared. It is big news for Kuhn’s agency and others like it that Gov. Mike DeWine now holds a leadership position with ARC.

The Commission is a federal-state partnership serving 13 states making up Appalachia. There is a federal co-chair, and DeWine is serving as the states’ co-chair in 2020.

In a statement, DeWine said the opportunity “fits with Ohio’s collaborative approach to build on the region’s strengths and address its challenges.”

Among the responsibilities will be hosting ARC’s annual summit in Ohio later this year.

This announcement was met with approval by various economic development officials throughout Appalachian Ohio. In interviews with the Capital Journal, these officials cheered the potential for DeWine taking on a key role in an organization that has funded everything from sewer lines to hospitals in their communities.

At the least, Kuhn said, this would build education and awareness across the Buckeye State: having the governor as co-chair would bring added understanding to communities on how they can access some of ARC’s sought after grant money.

Why ARC is important

A water treatment plant in Wellston. Manufacturing equipment for Youngstown State University. 911 improvements in Pike County.

ARC provides funding toward a wide variety of projects in Ohio each year. In Fiscal Year 2019, ARC distributed $12.3 million toward 31 projects, from sewer line work in Rutland to hospital equipment in Barnesville. The state of Ohio is among those which matches the federal dollars to provide further funding to these projects.

“We’ve always appreciated the double benefit,” said Perry Varnadoe, director of the Meigs County Economic Development Office.

Varnadoe can point to a number of ways ARC has benefited his county. Only a decade ago, Meigs lacked a 24-hour emergency room. That changed when ARC provided $250,000 in 2013 to equip and develop a new emergency room.

Along with improving health care access, the clinic has provided jobs and “peace of mind” to the county, Varnadoe said. It opened in 2014 and now serves thousands of patients per year.

ARC was also instrumental in helping the county build a local satellite campus of Rio Grande Community College in Meigs County. Varnadoe credits the Commission along with the Governor’s Office of Appalachia in Ohio with helping make these projects possible.

“They are a wonderful lifeline for needed services in Meigs County,” he said, adding that he believes DeWine has shown a “real and genuine interest” in helping rural communities.

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